CHAPTER-10 : Harappan Culture: Bronze Age Urbanization in the Indus Valley

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 



Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan Culture)

Discovery and Excavations

  • First recognized by Cunningham (1853) with a Harappan seal.
  • Major excavations:
    • Mohenjo-daro (Sindh): R.D. Banerjee (1921), Marshall (1931), Mackay (1938)
    • Harappa (Punjab): Daya Ram Sahni (1921), Vats (1940), Wheeler (1946)
  • Other important sites: Kot Diji (Pakistan), Hakra region (Pakistan), Gandhara graves (Pakistan)

Extent and Sites

  • Developed in northwestern India and Pakistan.
  • Mature culture centered in Sindh and Punjab (Indus Valley).
  • Spreads across parts of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Nearly 2800 sites identified.

Major Cities

  • Mature Phase:
    • Harappa (Punjab)
    • Mohenjo-daro (Sindh)
    • Chanhu-daro (Sindh)
    • Lothal (Gujarat)
    • Kalibangan (Rajasthan)
    • Banawali (Haryana)
    • Sutkagendor & Surkotada (coastal Gujarat)
  • Later Phase:
    • Rangpur & Rojdi (Gujarat)
    • Dholavira (Gujarat)
    • Rakhigarhi (Haryana)

Key Points

  • “Harappan” refers to the first discovery site.
  • “Indus Valley Civilization” reflects its geographic location.
  • Mature Indus Valley Civilization flourished around 2600-1900 BCE.


Town Planning and Structures

Citadel and Lower Town

  • Both Harappa and Mohenjo-daro had a citadel (acropolis) for the ruling class.
  • Lower town with brick houses for common people.

Grid System

  • Houses arranged in a grid system with intersecting roads.
  • Mohenjo-daro had a more elaborate layout.

Public Buildings

  • Great Bath (Mohenjo-daro):Large brick tank for ritual bathing (11.88 x 7.01 m, 2.43 m deep) with changing rooms, water source, and drainage.
  • Granaries:
    • Mohenjo-daro: Largest granary (45.71 x 15.23 m).
    • Harappa: Complex of 12 granaries (each 15.23 x 6.09 m) near the river bank.
  • Possible Laborer Barracks (Harappa):Two-roomed structures.
  • Possible Granaries (Kalibangan):Brick platforms.

Drainage System

  • Highly developed drainage system in Mohenjo-daro.
  • Every house had a courtyard and bathroom connected to street drains (covered with brick or stone slabs).
  • Similar drainage systems found in Kalibangan and Banawali.

Other Features

  • Fire altars:Found in Kalibangan and Lothal (possible sacrificial sites).
  • Wells:
    • Mohenjo-daro: Estimated 700 wells.
    • Kalibangan: Many houses had their own wells.



Crops and Evidence

  • Grains:Two types of wheat, barley (substantial amount at Banawali), rice (Lothal, 1800 BC).
  • Cotton:Indus Valley people were the first to cultivate cotton (Greeks called the area “Sindon” from Sindh).
  • Millets:Found in Gujarat sites.
  • Evidence:
    • Furrows at Kalibangan (pre-Harappan) indicate ploughed fields in Rajasthan.
    • Terracotta plough models from Cholistan and Banawali.
    • Possible ploughed field at Kalibangan (Early Harappan).


  • Food grains stored in large granaries at Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and possibly Kalibangan.


Domestication of Animals

  • Horses:Evidence debated. Possible remains at Surkotada (2000 BC).
  • Elephants:Domesticated by Harappans in Gujarat (unlike Mesopotamians).
  • Transportation:Terracotta models suggest bullock carts were used.

Technology and Crafts


  • Copper:Obtained from Rajasthan (Khetri mines) and Baluchistan.
  • Tin:Possibly from Afghanistan or Hazaribagh/Bastar (India).
  • Bronze:Made from copper and tin (lower tin content than Mesopotamia).
  • Textiles:Cotton and wool fabrics woven (evidence from cloth and spindle whorls).


  • Bricklaying:Large brick structures indicate skilled masons.
  • Boat-making
  • Seal making
  • Terracotta manufacturing
  • Pottery:
    • Faience:Miniature pots (Mohenjo-daro, Harappa).
    • Black Harappan Ware:Large jars with thick black clay coating (found at Omani sites).


  • Possible trade with Mesopotamia:
    • Evidence from Mesopotamian texts mentioning Meluhha (Indus Valley?) and its goods (carnelian, lapis lazuli, copper, gold, wood).
    • Seafaring suggested by Mesopotamian references.
  • Other materials:
    • Gold:Possibly from Karnataka.
    • Precious stones:Possibly from Gujarat, Iran, Afghanistan.


Trade and Commerce

  • Trade Network:
    • Rajasthan
    • Afghanistan and Iran (trading colony in northern Afghanistan)
    • Mesopotamia (Tigris & Euphrates basins)
  • Possible Trade Strategies:
    • Commercial links with shell-producing areas (Nageshwar, Balakot).
    • Settlements near resources (Shortughai – lapis lazuli, Lothal – carnelian, steatite, metal).
    • Expeditions to source materials (Khetri region – copper, south India – gold).

 Social Organization

  • Social Hierarchy:Evidence suggests a three-tiered society (citadel – elite, middle town – bureaucrats, lower town – commoners).
  • Burial Practices:Primarily pit burials. Ornaments found with some burials (Harappa cemetery).



  • Male Deity:Three-horned god depicted in yogi position, surrounded by animals (elephant, tiger, rhinoceros, buffalo, deer). Found on a seal.
  • Tree and Animal Worship:
    • Tree worship practiced.
    • Animals worshipped, especially the one-horned unicorn (rhinoceros) and the humped bull.

Art and Crafts

  • Writing:Indus Valley script developed.
  • Weights and Measures:Precise system of weights (usually chert) for trade.
  • Pottery:Skilled potters using the potter’s wheel.

Specific Art Forms

  • Seals and Sealings:Most impressive artistic creations (2000+ found). Made of steatite or faience, used as symbols of authority.
  • Metalwork:Beautiful metal images created by artisans.
  • Terracotta Figurines:Abundant figures made of fired clay.
  • Stonework:
    • Dholavira citadel: Most impressive Indus Valley citadel, built with stone.
    • Dholavira construction techniques:
      • Dressed stone combined with mud bricks.
      • Stone slabs used in three burial types, including one with a Megalithic-like stone circle.


 End and Afterlife


  • Nearly 2800 Harappan sites identified.
    • Over half are early/post-urban sites.
    • 1022 mature Harappan settlements:
      • 406 in Pakistan.
      • 616 in India.

Post-Urban Phase (1900-1200 BC)

  • Flourished in some areas after decline of major centers.
  • Also called Sub-Indus culture.
  • Examples:
    • Prabhas Patan & Rangpur (Gujarat).
    • Ahar (Udaipur).
    • Swat Valley (Pakistan).
    • Manda (Jammu), Chandigarh & Sanghol (Punjab), Daulatpur & Mitthal (Haryana), Alamgirpur & Hulas (UP).
  • Possible adaptations:
    • Rice cultivation at Daulatpur and Hulas.
    • Cotton production at Alamgirpur (based on pottery impressions).

Possible Causes of Decline

  • Shift in rivers (Yamuna & Sutlej away from Saraswati/Hakra) around 1700 BC (environmental factor).





Late Harappan Culture and Decline

  • Possible Signs of Foreign Influence:
    • Exotic tools and pottery appear in the Indus basin.
    • Hoards of jewelry and jumbled burials found at some sites.
    • New styles of weapons (axes, daggers) in upper levels of Mohenjo-daro.
    • New pottery types in some Harappan sites of Baluchistan.
    • Evidence of horses and Bactrian camels in Baluchistan (1700 BC).

Origins and Successors

  • Early Settlements:
    • Pre-Harappan agricultural settlements in Hakra area (Cholistan desert) around 4000 BC.
    • First agricultural settlements in eastern Baluchistan around 7000 BC.
    • Rahman Dheri: Early town with planned features in northern Baluchistan.

Discontinuity with Vedic Culture:

  • Indus Valley lacked features mentioned in the Rig Veda (planned towns, crafts, commerce, large brick structures).

Discontinuity After Decline:

  • Urbanism disappeared with the Harappan decline.
  • Script, burnt bricks, and towns were absent for about 1500 years.
  • Brahmi script (later) written left-to-right, unlike Indus Valley script.
  • No clear connection between Harappan and Northern Black Polished Ware pottery.

Additional Notes

  • Chanhudaro:Small settlement focused on crafts (bead-making, shell-working, metalworking, etc.).
  • Nageshwar & Balakot:Coastal settlements specializing in shellwork production.
  • Trade Network:Finished products from these specialized centers reached larger urban centers.


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